Did You Say I have HDTV? Explaining ADHD to Young Children

Telling your kids about ADHD can be a challenge.  My eldest son said to me the other day; “Now did you say I have ADHD or did you say I have an HDTV??"  

My eleven year old was kidding.  He thinks that the alphabet soup of acronyms in our language is extremely funny.  He does understand the disease but there is plenty of room for confusion when you are explaining complex brain phenomena to younger kids.

Some people ask me how much I think my kids need to know about ADHD and my response is; ” They need to know a lot”.  The reason I feel this way is simple.  Sooner, rather than later, they will be managing their own brains.  The earlier they gain experience in how their unique minds function, the better armed they will be to recognize and use the interventions that may help them.

This is some of what I have told my kids:

1.     We all come into this world with different bodies and different brains.   Diabetics need more insulin in order to digest food to fuel their bodies because an organ called the pancreas does not make enough.  People with ADHD need more Neurotransmitters in their brain in order to pay attention, control their impulses, and for staying still, because their brains do not make enough.     

2.     The medication and other interventions for ADHD acts a little bit like a pair of glasses. You can often see things without glasses but you see better when you have them on.  You can take your glasses off if you are in a situation where it is OK that you not see perfectly but you need to wear them when it is important to see things without any errors. 

3.     Impulse control is about stopping and counting to 10 before you do something.  Some brains always do this and some don't.  If you have a brain that does not count to 10 before doing something, you might do something really quickly and then feel sorry about what you did.  The medication helps the brain count to ten just like glasses help you see well.

I point out to my kids the behaviors that change when they are on, and off, their treatment regimen.  I need them to see the difference in themselves so that they have an idea of how the medicine, coffee, or other interventions, change their behaviors.  I believe that the message must always be age appropriate but that the sooner they start to learn the strengths and challenges facing their rapidly developing minds, the better they will be able to adapt to meet the challenges so that they can fully grow and thrive.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for all of this! I feel so much better...and especially love this post. I've often stressed over how I am going to deal with explaining ADHD to my 8yo. Thanks again!!


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